Flooded Wyoming Campgrounds Closed

July 6, 2011 by   - () Comments Off on Flooded Wyoming Campgrounds Closed

High winds and lightning knocked out two U.S. Forest Service communication towers and flooding along the Shoshone River near Wapiti, Wyo., prompted the agency to close several campgrounds over the weekend, the Billings Gazette reported.

Wapiti District Ranger Terry Root of the Shoshone National Forest said the campground closures will last another week, as the Shoshone River continues to flood low-lying areas within the drainage.

“We still have numerous camping sites in Wapiti Campground closed because the sites flood at night,” said Root. “We had to close Big Game Campground over the weekend, too. The water is flowing through our horse pasture and into the campground.”

Flood warning issued

As the holiday weekend kicked off, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Shoshone River within portions of the North Fork corridor, which runs from Yellowstone National Park about 45 miles east to the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

With a flood stage of 8 feet, the river reached the action stage of 7.85 feet at Wapiti on Thursday night (June 30). It returned to 7.5 feet Sunday and Monday, swamping several campgrounds.

The rush of snowmelt has brought water levels up at the Buffalo Bill Reservoir more than 9 feet since 10 a.m. Friday. The reservoir remains 15 feet below flood stage.

“We had to relocate some campers, which we were able to do, but not to electricity,” said Root. “We had room for them, but we didn’t have electrical connections for them.”

Radio tower repair

While forest officials worked to relocate campers, they also scrambled to repair two radio towers serving the North Fork and South Fork drainages outside Cody.

Root believes the tower on Clayton Mountain was damaged by lightning while high winds likely frayed the wires on the tower at Carter Mountain.

“It’s paramount we have those systems up and operating,” Root said. “It was a busy weekend with the high traffic numbers, the high water, the closed campsites, and when your communications system goes down, that’s a real problem.”

Root said forest crews were able to communicate despite the setback.

“We have some landlines in most of our campgrounds, and when you get away from the campgrounds into the North Fork and backcountry trails, we carried satellite phones. But we don’t like to rely on them.”

Forest officials were seen flying equipment on Saturday from a helipad at Wapiti to the communication towers. Crews will return to the towers soon to complete repairs, Root said.

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